Algeria/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

Since independence, Algerian law has paid special attention to the country’s linguistic traditions. The constitution indicates that Arabic is the national and formal language; Tamazight is also a national language which the state is working to enhance and develop. According to official conventions, reinstating Arabic instills cultural values and rebuilds national heritage through resisting Western cultural dominance. The 1964 national charter stressed the necessity of speeding up the Arabization process and strengthening cultural links to the Arab World. The Algerian education system was first Arabized in 1965-66, and in the late sixties two more attempts were made to further Arabize the curriculum.

In 1967, Algerian private schools became nationalized. Private education in Algeria has recently become guaranteed by law No. 08-04, passed on 23 October, 2008.

Arabization has played a major role in achieving and maintaining national unity. Commenting on the role of Arabization in restoring national character, late-president Houari Boumediène said: “Adopting the Arabization cause is a gain to the Arabic Algerian character and a final defeat to the French imperial plans which were aiming to deform its national character through destroying our language to be able to dominate our country with its resources and potentials forever”.

National education law No. 08-04 on 23 October, 2008, stressed the necessity of monitoring Arabic language reinstitution. Four language bodies: two academic structures for Arabic and Tamazight and two higher councils for the two national languages, were subsequently created.

Act No. 96-30 (passed on 21 December, 1996) popularized Arabic usage for administrative business. The law indicated that all internal dealings and correspondence regardless of their type, in all administrations, institutions and associations, should be in Arabic. However, the law was never strictly enforced, and many administrative departments, public and private economic institutions still operate in French.

Despite big achievements in Arabizing Algeria, French remains present in cultural dealings, particularly in the information sector, where written press, radio and television are produced in both French and Arabic, and often in Tamazight as well (see section 5.3.8).

Chapter published: 03-05-2013